If you shy away from fats for fear of heart disease, you aren’t alone, you may be surprised to learn that carbohydrates, not fats, are the culprits in heart disease.
For decades scientists and doctors have blamed dietary fats — especially saturated fat — for heart disease. We’ve been advised to stick to a low-fat, high-carb diet based on grains to keep our hearts healthy.
We now know this advice was based on outdated observational studies. As it turns out, none of the studies truly linked high-fat diets to heart disease, and numerous recent studies have debunked the theory.
In fact, the low-fat, high-carb diet promoted for decades by organizations such as the American Heart Association, the National Cholesterol Education Program, National Institutes of Health, and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture may have actually played a strong — yet unintended — role in today’s epidemics of obesity, type II diabetes, lipid abnormalities, and metabolic syndromes. If you would like help with these conditions and get to the root cause, go over to my free consult page and schedule.
Limit carbs, not fat, for heart health
For most people, it’s carbohydrates, not fats, that are the true cause of heart disease.
Since 2002, low-carb diets have been studied extensively with more than 20 randomized controlled trials. These studies show that limiting your consumption of carbohydrates rather than fats is the surer way to decrease heart disease risk.
An analysis of more than a dozen studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that subjects consuming a low-carb diet had a healthier cardiovascular system and body weight than those on low-fat diets.
The Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study not only found that increasing fat intake was linked to lower risk of heart disease, but as carbohydrate intake is increased, the risk of heart disease grew stronger.
Include plenty of healthy fats in your diet
We need plenty of healthy fats for our bodies and brains to function at their best. Low-fat diets have many risks, including decreased brain function, poor brain health, and hormone imbalances.
Essential to your body’s function, fats:
- Provide a major source of energy
- Aid in absorption of certain minerals
- Help you absorb vitamins A, E, D, and K
- Help reduce inflammation
- Are necessary for building cell membranes
- Help build nerve sheaths
- Are essential for blood clotting and muscle movement
- Help maintain your core body temperature
- Protect your core organs from impact
- Provide the key nutrient for your brain, which consists of nearly 60 percent fat
Four types of fat: Eat three, avoid one
Four types of fat are found in our diet, all with different characteristics and effects. Some are great, some are good, and one is purely horrible.
Saturated fat. Instead of being linked to heart disease, saturated fats actually offer important health benefits:
- Supports brain health
- May reduce risk of stroke
- Raises HDL (your “good”) cholesterol
- Changes the LDL (“bad”) from small, dense particles — dangerous for heart health — to large particle LDL, which does not increase heart disease risk. This has been intensively studied in the past few decades and the studies consistently show these results.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Examples include red meat fat, cooled bacon grease, whole milk, cheese, and coconut oil.
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) are “essential,” meaning that your body doesn’t produce them on its own and you must get them through your diet.
MUFAs are liquid at room temperature and begin to solidify when refrigerated. They can be found in olive oil, nuts, avocados and whole milk.
Monounsaturated fats can help:
- Prevent depression
- Protect you from heart disease
- Reduce risks for certain kinds of cancer
- Improve insulin sensitivity
- Assist with weight loss
- Strengthen bones
Consuming higher levels of MUFAs than saturated fats has a protective effect against metabolic syndrome, a cluster of disorders that increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Polyunsaturated fats are also “essential,” meaning your body doesn’t produce them on its own and must get them via dietary intake.
Polyunsaturated fats can help improve blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease the risk of heart disease, and may also help decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: Omega 3 and Omega 6.
Omega 3 fats are linked with lowered inflammation, better brain function, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, sardines, and herring. Plant sources include ground flaxseed, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
While we do need some omega 6 fatty acids in our diet, excess consumption is inflammatory and is connected to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, psychiatric issues, and cancer.
To prevent an inflammatory environment, increase your consumption of omega 3 fats and lower consumption of omega 6. Researchers recommend a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 that ranges from 1:1 to 4:1.
Trans fats are the one type of fat to always avoid. A byproduct of a process called hydrogenation that makes healthy oils into solids and prevents them from becoming rancid, trans fat have no health benefits. Their risks include:
- Increased levels of harmful LDL cholesterol in the blood
- Reduced beneficial HDL cholesterol
- Increased inflammation
- Higher risk for insulin resistance (a risk for Type 2 diabetes)
- Trans fats are so risky the FDA issued a ban in 2015 that required they be removed from processed foods within three years.
Six foods to include for healthy fat intake
- Rich in monounsaturated fats (raises good cholesterol while lowering bad)
- High in vitamin E
- High protein for a fruit
- Provides folate
Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids which:
- Are not stored as fat by the body as readily as other fats
- Support brain function and memory
- Are easy to digest
Extra virgin olive oil
- Very high levels of monounsaturated fats
- Supports heart health and cognitive function
- Best for low or medium heat cooking (not high heat)
Omega 3 fatty acids
- Found in cold water fish such as salmon and sardines
- Easy to consume via fish oil supplements
Nuts and seeds
- Rich in ALA (alpha lipoic acid) Omega 3 fats for the brain
- Helps lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
MCT oil (from coconuts)
- Provides medium-chain triglycerides, a healthy form of saturated fat
- Easily digested
Limiting intake of carbohydrates, rather than fats, is a surer way to decrease the risk of heart disease. Many doctors have seen how low-carb diets with plenty of healthy fats help patients lose weight, reverse their diabetes, and improve their cholesterol.
There really is a lot a help for cardiovascular disease. If you want to get to the root cause of it instead of taking medication, schedule a free consultation today.
Conventional medicine is slowly admitting that instead of fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates are the biggest sources of high cholesterol. Excess sugars and carbs drive good cholesterol down and triglycerides up, leading to the small, dangerous particles that encourage plaque buildup in the arteries. This contributes to heart disease and insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes.
High blood sugar and insulin levels also drive chronic systemic inflammation, playing a large role in heart disease and most other chronic illnesses. Systemic inflammation arises not only from poor diet, but also from an inactive lifestyle, chronic stress, food sensitivities, chronic viral and bacterial infections, and more.
Recently busted cholesterol myths include:
- Statins: Recent research shows that statin benefits are likely due to their ability to lower inflammation, not cholesterol.
- Heart attack: 75 percent of those who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels.
- Age: In older patients, those with higher cholesterol have a lower risk of death than those with lower levels of cholesterol.
- Harvard research has shown that a high level of systemic inflammation ranks higher than high cholesterol for putting subjects at risk for heart disease.
Consume plenty of fats from healthy sources
Conventional medicine has touted a low-fat diet for years, but researchers and doctors are coming to realize we need more fat in our diet than previously thought. However, not all dietary sources of cholesterol are created equal. The type of fat you consume matters more than the quantity.
For the health of your entire body, it’s important to consume plenty of healthy, unprocessed fats and avoid processed vegetable oils. Avoid all trans fats as they raise your risk of cardiovascular disease and can damage your brain.
Omega 3 and monounsaturated fats improve the type of cholesterol in our bodies.
The dietary reference intake (DRI) for fat in adults is 20 percent to 35 percent of total calories from fat. That equals about 44 to 77 grams of fat per day for a 2,000 calorie diet.
*Below are the recommended consumption ratios:
- Monounsaturated fat: 15 percent to 20 percent
- Polyunsaturated fat: 5 percent to 10 percent
- Saturated fat: less than 10 percent (unless keto)
- Trans fat: 0 percent
- Cholesterol: less than 300 mg per day
Unsaturated fats. Typically liquid at room temperature, sources include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. When used in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower cholesterol levels.
Monounsaturated fats. Healthy versions come from plant-based sources such as nuts, olives, and avocado. Avoid canola oil.
Polyunsaturated fats. Healthy plant-based sources include nuts. Avoid processed seed and grain (corn) oils due to frequent rancidity.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that help lower inflammation. Good sources include cold water fish (salmon, tuna, herring, and anchovies), flax and chia seed, and walnuts.
*Saturated fats. Typically solid or waxy at room temperature, these come from animal products and tropical oils. Taking in too much saturated fat is linked with raising levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood and increasing internal inflammation. Healthy foods high in saturated fat include:
- Beef, pork, lamb, veal, and skin of poultry
- High fat dairy products
- Butter, lard, and bacon fat
- Palm, palm kernel, and coconut oil
*Low-carb and ketogenic diets: The rules on fat ratios change on diets that are very carb-restricted due to how carb levels affect saturated fat in the bloodstream. People on these diets are able to consume higher ratios of saturated fats safely.
Trans fats form when a liquid fat is changed into a solid fat through a process called hydrogenation. This extends shelf life, however trans fats raise levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and decrease levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
Avoid trans fats completely! Sources of trans fat include solid margarine, shortening, powdered and liquid creamers, and most convenience and prepackaged foods.
Ask my office for more advice on how much and what types of fats to eat in your diet.